SC allows Marcos burial at heroes cemetery

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday allowed President Rodrigo Duterte’s plan to bury former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB) in Taguig City.

In a 9-5 vote, the high court dismissed all petitions seeking to block the said move.

”The petitions are dismissed. Necessarily, the status quo ante order is hereby lifted,” SC Spokesperson Theodore Te said in press conference.

Te said the magistrates did not say whether the ruling is immediately executory but said the petitioners may still file a motion for reconsideration.

”The majority found that the allotment of a cemetery plot at the LNMB for former President Marcos as a former President and Commander-in-Chief, a legislator, a Secretary of National Defense, a military personnel, a veteran, and a Medal of Valor awardee, whether recognizing his contributions or simply his status as such, satisfies the public use requirement,” Te said as he read the summary of the decision.

Marcos' supporters cry after learning that the Supreme Court grants the late President Ferdinand Marcos be buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. DANNY PATA/ Northbound Philippines News Photo
Marcos’ supporters cry after learning that the Supreme Court grants the late President Ferdinand Marcos be buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani. DANNY PATA/ Northbound Philippines News Photo

”There are certain things that are better left for history—not this court—to adjudge. The court could only do so much in accordance with clearly established rules and principles. Beyond that, it is ultimately for the people themselves, as the sovereign, to decide, a task that may require the better perspective that the passage of time provides. In the meantime, the country must move on and let this issue rest,” the high court added.

The court found that President Duterte committed no grave abuse of discretion in ordering the remains of former President Ferdinand Marcos be buried in the LNMB because this was done in the exercise of his mandate under the Article 7, section 17 of the 1987 constitution to ensure the faithful execution of all laws and there is no law that prohibits the burial of Marcos’ remains at the LNMB.

“At bar, President Duterte, through the public respondents acted within the bounds of law and jurisprudence. Nothwithstanding the call of human rights advocates, the Court must uphold what is legal and just and that is not to deny Marcos his rightful place at the LNMB,” the high court said.

The SC said President Duterte is not bound by the 1992 agreement between the Marcos family and former President Fidel Ramos which provides that the late strongman’s remains will be interred in Batac, Ilocos Norte.

“As the incumbent, President Duterte is free to amend, revoke or rescind political agreements entered into by his predecessors and to determine policies which he considers, based on informed judgment and presumed wisdom, will be most effective in carrying out his mandate,” the high court said.

While there are allegations of human rights violations committed by the late strongman, the high court said Marcos is still not disqualified to be buried at the LNMB because he has not been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.

“(T)he various cases cited by petitioners, which were decided with finality by courts here and abroad, have no bearing in this case since they were merely civil in nature; hence, (they) cannot and do not establish moral turpitude,” the high court said.

The high court also said “presumption of regularity in the performance of official duty prevails over petitioners’ highly disputed factual allegation that, in the guise of exercising a presidential prerogative, the Chief Executive is actually motivated by utang na loob (debt of gratitude) and bayad utang (payback) to the Marcoses.

”As the prupose is not self-evident, petitioners have the burden of proof to establish the factual basis of their claim. They failed. Even so, this Court cannot take cognizance of factual issues since we are not a trier of facts,” the high court stressed.

Among those who voted to allow Marcos burial at the LNMB are Associate Justices Presbitero J. Velasco Jr.; Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro; Arturo D. Brion; Diosdado M. Peralta; Mariano C. Del Castillo; Lucas P. Bersamin; Jose P. Perez; Jose C. Mendoza and Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe.

Meanwhile, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Associate Justices Francis H. Jardeleza; Marvic F. Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa voted to oppose Marcos’ burial at the heroes cemetery.

Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, meanwhile, inhibited from the case. The SC first issued a status quo ante order (SQA) issued on the matter last August 23 which was later extended on Sept. 7.

But at the conclusion of oral arguments last Sept. 7, the SC extended the effectivity of the order.

Last Oct. 18, the high court extended for the second time the halt order until Nov. 8, according to the SC spokesman.

The High Court has consolidated the seven petitions filed by groups of martial law victims, led by former Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and former Commission on Human Rights chair Etta Rosales, a group led by former Senator Heherson Alvarez, a group of University of the Philippines students, former Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao human rights chair Algamar Latiph, and Senator Leila De Lima.

The petitioners argued that the planned burial of the late dictator was “illegal and contrary to law, public policy, morals and justice.”

They claimed that allowing the burial of the former leader would violate Republic Act No. 289 (law regulating the Libingan ng mga Bayani) and R.A. 10368 (Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act) and also argued that the burial would also violate constitutional provision on state policies.

On the contrary, Solicitor General Jose Calida invoked the President’s authority under the Constitution and Revised Administrative Code to decide on political question that does not involve any justifiable issue for the high court to resolve.

During the oral arguments before the SC, the top government counsel argued that it is within the powers of the President to decide on whether to allow or not the burial of former President Marcos at the heroes cemetery.

Calida said Marcos is very much qualified to be buried at the LNMB because he is a former President, a Medal of Valor awardee, a war veteran and a statesman.

Ferdinand E. Marcos, who ruled the country for 20 years until he was ousted in 1986, died at the age of 72, on Sept. 29, 1989 after succumbing to heart, lung and kidney ailments. Christopher Lloyd Caliwan/